Styles of wine are in a constant state of flux and the idea that a wine is ‘typical’ or true to its origin is becoming harder to pin down. When we were buying our first bottles of red in the early 2000’s, thick textures, prominent oak and extracted flavours were normal. And they were popular. It’s as if we collectively craved flavour. These styles are still undoubtedly popular as the purchasing habits of many of my friends will testify.
A wine for all seasons
We are now tasting an about-turn as producers and many wine lovers seek wines of freshness, gentle extraction, higher toned flavours and finer structures. All this is fine, but what happens when you serve a dish that calls for size, or you have a craving for a big, oaky Barossa. Or your glasses are cheap, and the subtle nuances and shade are lost in the Paris tumbler. Is there a wine producer who encompasses size and elegance, all manner of flavours, bright colour that is neither dark nor light, sleek textured, yet with firm tannins? In other words, a complete wine, that defies the cliche descriptors and stereotypes. This is an estate called Domaine de Marcoux.
The Coulon family can trace their lineage in the region back to 1691, but the estate as we now come to see it began in 1995 when sisters Catherine and Sophie took over from their mother Jacqueline Coulon. Utter devotion to producing the finest wines began where it always does, in the vineyard. Organically certified in 1991, and the estate applies many biodynamic practices, such as manure composts and tea sprays.
Vineyard parcels are scattered throughout the appellation, so the wines should be seen as ‘estate’ wines and emblematic of the region of Chateauneuf-du-Pape as opposed to single vineyard/parcels. The Coulon’s also have an estate in neighbouring Lirac called La Lorentine and the wines are every bit as beautiful as their more famous appellation. The reds are made from Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvedre, whilst the whites; Rousanne and Bourboulenc.
The grapes are handpicked into 50kg crates before they undergo a rigorous selection. Any imperfect or damaged berry is discarded before being destemmed. Whole bunches are rarely used. Wild fermentation is in stainless steel, where the fermentation temperatures are able to be kept cool.
The wines never see any new oak, being aged in a combination of concrete and very old large format oak for the reds, and stainless steel and old 600 litre casks. Fermentation is long and extractions are gentle, but they can also last for up to five weeks. Ironically, the tannins are so fine and I have never found a Marcoux wine ‘pushed’ or for those tannins to be ‘squeezed’.
Wines that are effortless drinking require great sites, great vineyards, experience, attention to detail and hard work. You can taste the fruit in Marcoux’s wine and not the process. Tasting all the reds together, it is evident that there is a house style and that the estate’s DNA is to be tasted from the most humble bottles to the pinnacle.
The tannins become more pronounced as you get to the Chateauneuf-du-Papes and the general impression at this level is of finesse, detail, depth of flavour and length. For those looking for extracted or hugely tannic expressions, these wines are not for you.
The flavours are incredibly complex with red, black and hedgerow fruits. Tertiary flavours of flowers, fruitcake, aniseed, wood polish, black olive, tea, herbs, petrichor, dark chocolate and smoke are threaded with the fruit. The shape is round, with persistent acidity that helps the tannins in framing rather than being a feature themselves.
Tannins in Chateauneuf-du-Papes can be fearsome and the taste of grape skin overwhelming the fruit. Marcoux’s tannins are of velvet, so fine, and present an effortless that finishes with a subtle squeeze.
Traditionally Claret was the definition of poise. Confident, elegant, powerful, intense delineated flavours, complex and deep. The wine drinker had everything they could wish for in a glass of Bordeaux. Our tasting of Domaine de Marcoux was one of my favourite group of wines in 2021. Absorbing and delicious, I simply couldn’t remember drinking wines so utterly balanced, composed and without a hair out of place. There was nothing to fault, nor could i say i would have preferred a little bit of this, or less of that. As close to perfection as possible. Complete wine.
Hands down, the best bistro wine we have tasted from anywhere. Sweet and tangy compote of red, blue and black fruits. Super bright palate, juicy, with gentle spice, refreshing acidity, silky mouthfeel and a squeeze of powdery tannins. Utterly drinkable, versatile and there’s a serious side too. Absolute bargain.
The very definition of unforced power, supreme elegance and perfect balance. Intense bouquet of strawberry, raspberry, plum, blueberry, clove and thyme. Silken mouthfeel, sleek and the flavours travelling to the outer reaches of the palate. There’s a buoyancy, in contrast to effortless smoothness, the carry is long and accentuated by Marcoux’s trademark velvet. Tremendous value, South Africa the only country to rival such exquisiteness at this price. Ethereal, complete wine.
The stamp of Marcoux is on all their reds, and it’s a delight to taste them together. The flavour and textural profiles are similar, and here we have the pinnacle; deeper, concentrated, woven complexity and lacy structure. Vivid and intense, with an immediate presence. Extremely complex nose of red fruits, brambly fruit, petrichor, campfire, violets and lavender. Expansive palate, almost elastic as it expands in the mouth. Medium to full bodied, gently intense, detailed and fine lacy tannins. I love the ethereal, floral and high toned lift, and for all its elegance the power of a grand wine. Composed and complete. My favourite Chateauneuf-du-Pape?